Nimble and Effective: DuPage for Progress

Now for a subject near to my (broken) heart — DuPage for Progress.

Results: Eight out of ten won their seats, 94% of our candidates said they would not have run otherwise, and voter turnout in York Township almost doubled.

As you’ll recall, one of the initiatives that came out of LARJ: Lombard Allies for Racial Justice was a political action committee to recruit and support anti-racist candidates for local office. A number of LARJ members got involved as candidates and volunteers and DuPage for Progress was born.

Co-founders Kathy Nash, Sarah Campagna, and I worked hard to research all the different races to find out what was coming up, what the qualifications were, how to become a candidate, etc. — the rules are byzantine and seem made to keep people out. We pulled it all together to share with each other to make the process easier.

It’s essential to know that the local Democratic Party does not support nonpartisan candidates in any way. Nonpartisan candidates are elected to community leadership positions like school boards and library boards — and we all know by now how important it is to have sane and decent people serving on these boards. The Republicans have known this for a long time and spend a lot of care and money recruiting and grooming candidates for higher office, and certainly invest in and promote their school board candidates.

DuPage for Progress filled a need that York Township Democratic Organization and The Democratic Party of DuPage County do not address.

We were all super enthusiastic about working together in a new model that was less top-down and more community oriented, with leaders and volunteers and candidates sharing different tasks and working in their areas of expertise. I led most of our weekly Zoom meetings which were held to an hour and made to be engaging and action-oriented.

DuPage for Progress made running for local office efficient, fun, and open to new and underrepresented candidates.

In order to help our candidates collect signatures during a challenging time (that first winter of Covid), we created a “drive-through” signature event where we could safely gather outside, collect donations for the Lombard/Village Park Food Pantry (now The Outreach House), and have voters meet candidates and sign their petitions. It was a huge success!

Then, over the winter, we held a Drive-Through Community Food Drive to demonstrate our commitment to the community and get out in front of voters. This was also a big hit! Despite the truly frigid weather, many people stopped by to donate, some even making a special trip to the store. And I met at least one voter later in the campaign who said she decided to vote for us that day when she drove by and saw us out in the freezing cold.

We also hosted virtual “meet the candidate” nights on Zoom and Facebook.

And on April 6, 2021 — eight out of our ten candidates won their elections! All of them are serving their communities with distinction and we are so glad they are in leadership positions.

Fast forward a year. The co-founders of DuPage for Progress seem to be regarded as a. threat to local party leaders and are made to feel distinctly unwelcome at meetings and gatherings (my experience anyway). I guess I’m glad that our good ideas are being recycled and put to use to get Democrats elected — but it would rankle less if we ever got any credit or thanks. From 2022:

Why am I in my feels about this? Because DuPage for Progress was fun and successful — we created a caring local community when we all really needed one, we worked hard together, and we elected a lot of great progressive Democrats to office.

And for me — after getting beaten up by the Republicans during my campaign, and then bullied and slandered by local Democratic party leaders after (stories on this to come) — well, it was a whole lot of terrible feelings to absorb.

I took a nice long break from local politics and Facebook and now am here, to share my story. Thanks for reading.

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